Zulu Alpha Kilo created an ‘unlearning’ resource to tackle microaggressions

Who: Four Canadian diversity and inclusion advocacy groups: The Black Business and Professional Association; The Canadian Congress on Diversity and Workplace Equity; Pride at Work; and Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute, with   Zulu Alpha Kilo for strategy and creative, Zulubot for production and post-production, along with Pirate Toronto for audio.

What: The “Micropedia of Microaggressions,” a just-launched website offering comprehensive information and guidance about microaggressions.

When & Where: The site is live now at TheMicropedia.org. In terms of media support, the focus is on social media and grassroots outreach to more than 100 DEI organizations across the country, supported by national PR. (The agency is also planning a “live and interactive art exhibit” in the new year to further raise awareness.)

Why: There has been much discussion about the need to dismantle systemic racism in the last 18 months, and microaggressions—the subtle comments and actions arising from implicit bias and stereotypes that, while perhaps unintentional, can be harmful to others—are an insidious thread woven throughout.

Microaggressions are part of daily life for many people, and can take a significant toll on mental and physical health.

“But unlike, for example, overt anti-Black racism, microaggressions are often more subtle. They are often harder to ‘prove,’ and we second guess ourselves, adding to the negative effects,” said Nadine Spencer, president and CEO of the Black Business and Professional Association, one of the groups behind the project.

“It can also be exhausting to decide what to call out and when or how to explain why something is harmful, especially when comments may be the result of ignorance rather than malice.”

The Micropedia is meant to raise awareness and provide more people with a better understanding of microaggressions.

How: The site includes definitions, information and examples from culture, media, and daily interactions in nine different “volumes”: 2SLGBTQ+, Age, Class-based, Disability, Ethnicity, Gender, Indigenous, Race, and Religion. Each volume opens with a brief description, followed by the common examples of microaggressions, along with real-life examples and links to learn more.

The Micropedia can provide people with “relevant resources in a judgement-free way,” said Stephanie Yung, head of design and ECD at Zulu Alpha Kilo. “This is especially important when conversation emerges around clear examples of microaggressions in wider culture and our everyday lives. We can’t change what we don’t know.”

There’s also a “user submission” component so the resource can continue to grow and become even deeper.

To introduce The Micropedia, the agency also created a documentary style video in which people talk about their experiences with microaggressions before being introduced to The Micropedia. The video ends with the line: “Unlearning starts here,” followed by TheMicropedia.org and the logos of the four organizations behind it.

Yung said that project arose out of a long-standing partnership with Wendy Cukier at Ryerson’s Diversity Institute. “Zak [Mroueh] founded the agency on the belief that ‘the world needs more creativity.’  We have a history of taking action to support the things we believe in, whether it be supporting gun control or the need for greater acceptance of new Canadians, in the hopes that our creative can help solve community and societal problems.”

And we quote: “This resource explains the harm a person might unknowingly cause, and includes real-life examples. We hope that it will help individuals to become more aware of bias, stereotypes and offensive comments and behaviours.” — Nadine Spencer, president and CEO of the Black Business and Professional Association.

David Brown